Yeah, so I opened a can a worms while I was in a frustrated state and a bit of religion came spewing out and I got several people upset. So, let’s go back and cover it and if y’all hate me afterwards, well, so be it (or should I say amen? since it’s the same thing)
This is turning out longer than I expected, so here is part one.
Religion: The background
I was born in a family with a Catholic and a Protestant. This was and in some places still is, unthinkable. My sister was Christened in a Catholic Church. Since her first name was not a saint’s name, the preist Christened her with her middle name. That totally pissed off my parents and Catholic was out. I was born in Buffalo, and when I was 3 or 4, we moved to the edge of the county (about 40 minutes away, it’s a long and skinny county). My parents had been going to a United Church of Christ. Then they found an Episcopal Church in my town. It was protestant (sort of) and Catholic(sort of). For those who are aware of the schism in the Episcopal Church, my town boasted one of the more conservative churches. The Episcopal Church was also one of the smaller churches in town. Buffalo and the surrounding areas contain a large group of Catholics and my town had the requisite Catholic Church and school.
My parents wanted me to have communion, so I had to study with one of the pastors. I had to serve as an acolyte, and I had to learn all about being one with Christ. The pastor was not terribly thrilled with me. I asked many questions. I was explained that God was loving and gave his only son to save us. I asked how this God could be so loving if He destroyed towns and called for the murder of other people. I was explained that God changed. I asked why an omnipotent God would need to undergo change? Why would a sacrifice be needed? Would He have seen this coming? The pastor often referred me to the book of Job and how Job never wavered in his faith of God. I think the pastor was ready to pull out his hair when I asked how a God could be loving if He was willing to torment a worshipper just to prove a point? I was finally allowed to have communion. I was expecting things to make a difference. I thought if I was “ready” to accept the blood and flesh of Christ, then I must feel something when I stepped to the altar. I tasted cheap red wine out of a communal cup and ate a flat white wafer that didn’t even taste like bread. The spirit within me was nonplussed.
Shortly after this time, my parents had a falling out with the Episcopal Church. Or perhaps the pastor finally rubbed them the wrong way. We had been having a series of interns under our pastor and, well, they were all jerks as far as I could tell. My mom convinced my dad to go back to the UCC in Buffalo, the Church SHE grew up with. So off to another form of Christianity. Now, remember that my town was full of Catholics. I often slept over at friends’ homes and was expected to attend church the next day. I got a fairly accurate view of Catholicism from those visits to St. Paul’s in our town.
I found the UCC was a better fit for our family. The wine was served out of small cups and the bread was actually little cubes of bread! This was more like I had imagined the bread of Christ to be like. I still had no spiritual experience within the Church. It was calm, and I could reflect on the past week. I often found the fact that we spent so much time reflecting on what we did wrong and very little on HOW to be better. The sermons were all about the goodness of Jesus and how we need to be better because we were all evil little sinners. Occasionally a story from the Old Testament would sneak in and I would remember the Book of Job and how God would play with his underlings.
Often, I would stare at the patterns on the glass windows and wonder if there really was a God. Why was this God so egotistical that He needed everyone to be perfect little beings? Why didn’t the God make people perfect in the first place. Sure, the whole garden of Eden and the snake, but that means God gave people the free will to disobey and perfection was purely unattainable. I once asked one of the pastors about this and he tried to assure me that God wasn’t trying to make people perfect. Then why do we need to sin and ask for forgiveness all of the time? If we were made in God’s image, why are our souls not perfect too? Why do our bodies fail before a full life? Why did God need a fallen angel to create the evil side of nature? Again, my lack of going with the party line lead to me being reminded of being obedient to God and to Jesus. That Jesus loves us and we need to be good for everlasting life.
This lead to a whole other quandary. Everlasting life? Really? Wouldn’t that be, well, dull? The books show pudgy baby cherubim and winged robed people, floating on clouds, all the same, all just as dull. Where is the pleasure in that? If all of our needs are met, if all of our days are the same paradise, would it be interesting? I had trouble with the whole everlasting life. Did this mean that souls are constantly formed out of nothingness and they go to heaven and never return to the circle of life? Of course, you could also suffer in the pains of hell, but what kind of system is THAT? Live a good life the way one book tells you and your will allow your soul to go to a place that looks down on the world and everyone is the dressed the same, or suffer for all eternity for not doing the right thing? And the best part of this system is it’s a guess! What if you happened to follow a different form of Christianity. They all couldn’t be right. There are minor differences in all and what is not allowed in one is totally cool in another. If I believed in the WRONG Christianity, I would STILL go to suffer for all eternity. I couldn’t even tell if that falls in Dante’s 1st circle of hell.
Around the time I was trying to really understand the nature of God and Jesus, I ran into a problem. I found Darwin’s theory of evolution to make sense. It was logical, it was studied, it did not invoke a magical person to step in a create something out of nothing. It was supported by many, many, many forms of evidence. I liked it. It was tangible. Cool! Something that is making sense! Except, I discovered that my peers did not agree. I was debating between the chocolate milk that I loved and the regular milk that was better for me when one girl (and I can’t remember who it was) said “I heard that you believe in that stupid evolution thing”. Surprised, I turned and said “yes, why not? It makes sense, it has evidence backing it up. It’s great!” She spat at me!(ick!). “You’re going to burn in hell for not believing in Jesus. I didn’t come from a monkey!” Well color me shocked! I was rather taken aback and surprised when a few other people announced similar things. Fortunately, my real friends didn’t care, but I was really upset by this.
I spent 7th grade soul searching and trying to understand where God, Jesus and the Church fell in my life. It was about this time I picked up “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret” again. This time, I really could relate. I was just getting my period, I was getting older and I didn’t find religion to be reasonable in my life. I continued to try to understand religion, my place in it and life in general until college.